LEXINGTON, KY – The third time was the charm for Terry Hamilton’s Heart to Heart after the 7-year-old horse wired his foes with ease in a race in which he’s twice finished second, Friday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes at Keeneland.
Breaking from post 6 under Julien Leparoux as the lukewarm 3-1 favorite, Heart to Heart beat Ballagh Rocks and Frostmourne into the first turn to take command, then set comfortable opening fractions of :24.07, :47.90, and 1:11.77. Rounding the far turn still under Leparoux’s control, Heart to Heart was finally given his cue with a furlong remaining and his competition beginning to close the gap. Under light, steady encouragement, the Brian Lynch trainee drew off to win convincingly by 1 3/4 lengths in a final time of 1:34.71 for the mile-long turf event.
“He deserves to win this race,” Leparoux said. “He had a couple of tough beats at Keeneland. He’s a nice horse; everybody loves him. He’s a cool horse to be around. Last time, he got his first Grade 1 (in the Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes on February 10), which was very special, but to get a Grade 1 at Keeneland is even more special.”
Ballagh Rocks took second by a 1/2-length over a four-way photo finish for third. Forge was ultimately named the group leader, with noses separating him from Om, Frostmourne, and Mr. Misunderstood. The rest of the field came across as Next Shares, Tower of Texas, and Hogy. Nileator was scratched.
Heart to Heart’s win was redemption for his runner-up efforts in 2016 and 2017, losing by only a neck in the latter. The son of English Channel improved his record to 35-15-5-3 with career earnings of $1,917,290 – not too shabby, considering Hamilton paid just $25,348 for him as a yearling.
“He just never stops giving,” Lynch said. “Julien is just a great fit with him. I think that was probably one of his best performances here today. You always worry about the Keeneland stretch; it’s so long. We’re always looking for the wire before it gets there. But today, when he broke clear, I thought, ‘Someone’s going to have to burst out of the pack to get him.’ He was on his game. We loved the way he trained coming into it, and we really felt like he was the best we’ve had him. He certainly showed it today.”
Heart to Heart returned $8.40 to win, $4.40 to place, and $3.20 to show. Ballagh Rocks brought back $5 to place and $3.80 to show, while Forge paid $5.40 to show.